ELECTIONS Survey reports voting trouble for blacks

Democrats say black voters had more problems at the polls than white voters.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Black voters reported twice as many problems at the polls than whites in the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, according to a new report by the Democratic National Committee.
The state's chief elections official countered that census figures showed blacks in Ohio voted at a higher rate than nationally and that the DNC report was nothing more than a political attack.
Overall, 28 percent of Ohio voters reported problems with completing their ballots, finding their polling places or intimidation by poll workers and others, the committee said. However, 52 percent of black voters reported problems, compared with 25 percent of white voters, the committee said.
The committee surveyed 1,201 people who voted or intended to vote. It was conducted Jan. 30-Feb 2. The committee did not report a margin of error. Precinct data also was compiled from voter registration, turnout, election results, absentee ballots and provisional ballots cast, and the number of voting machines and poll workers in each precinct, the committee said.
Other sources
Census data released last month showed that 586,000 blacks in Ohio, or 66 percent of eligible black voters, cast ballots Nov. 2. Four years earlier, 500,000, or 54 percent, of eligible black voters cast ballots. Nationally, 70 percent of black voters went to the polls.
The state found overall turnout at 72 percent. The census reported last fall's turnout at 65 percent. The rate was lower because the bureau analyzed all eligible voters, not just registered voters.
Last year, 5.7 million registered voters cast ballots, about 700,000 more than those who voted in the previous highest turnout race: the 1992 contest among President Clinton, former President Bush and independent millionaire H. Ross Perot.
Suspicious data
The census figures cast doubt on the Democrats' data, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican.
"It's a bald-faced fabrication. The facts just don't match with what the report's conclusions are. Ohio had record turnout in 2004 and it was across the board," LoParo said.
The Democrats also said 158,642 provisional ballots -- or 2.8 percent of the total -- were cast last year. That compares with 0.9 percent in Pennsylvania and 0.4 percent in Florida. The Democrats said Ohio's high number was due to shortcomings in voter registration, especially among those who changed addresses since the previous election.
LoParo attributed the large number of provisional ballots to voter comfort with Ohio's system, which has been in place since 1994. Many states started accepting provisional ballots only after the 2000 Florida election fiasco.
Blackwell believes the report was written to discredit him as he mounts a 2006 campaign for governor. He faces Attorney General Jim Petro and Auditor Betty Montgomery in the GOP primary.

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